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Introduction

Enacting border security in the digital age: political worlds of data forms, flows and frictions (SECURITY FLOWS) is a five-year Consolidator Grant funded by the European Research Council. The project proposes to analyse how datafication, the process of transforming our everyday lives into quantifiable digital data, is also transforming borders today. The project develops a novel interdisciplinary framework to understand how data is generated, exchanged and contested in border encounters, and to investigate the complex epistemic, practical, political and ethical implications of these transformations.

Tracing the production of data forms, flows and frictions, SECURITY FLOWS will shed light on how data forms make things intelligible or unintelligible, and how digital data flows and frictions redistribute knowledge and ignorance among border security actors, NGOs and irregular migrants.

The project will also devise a multi-modal methodology for 'following the data' along migration routes. Politically, the project investigates how data reconfigures the worlds of actors involved in the governance of border security by enacting new power relations between these actors and reshaping decision-making. Finally, it will inquire into how data protection and the rights of both citizens and non-citizens are transformed by datafication.

The project’s overarching objective is to offer a novel theorisation and understanding of how border security is enacted through datafication and with what ethical and political implications for border security, public debates, and human rights. More specifically, the project has four key aims:


1 Epistemic. The project aims to offer a novel understanding of the relation between datafication and knowledge in border security practices. 

2. Practical. We use a multifaceted set of established and digital methods to trace the complex movements of data through an empirical analysis of three case studies that ‘follow the data’ in border encounters along the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean routes as well as the routes that precede these from Morocco, Niger and Turkey, and finally along return routes. 


3. Political. We will show how processes of datafication reconfigure the worlds of border and security professionals, as more and more actors are involved in data collection and exchange, and decisionmaking increasingly relies on digital data. 


4. Ethical. The project will analyse the implications of these wide-ranging transformations for data protection and the rights of both citizens and non-citizens. We propose that there are three ethical dimensions that processes of datafication question anew: accountability, citizenship and agency.